Cadets, midshipmen report from opposing fronts for Army-Navy game
December 8, 2011
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WEST POINT, N.Y. (Dec. 8, 2011) -- It is a longstanding tradition at the Army-Navy football game for both academies to conduct a formal "prisoner exchange" on the field before kickoff. The prisoners are the cadets and midshipmen who've spent the semester studying at the sister academy, and the short reprieve allows them to enjoy the game with their comrades.
The West Point Public Affairs Office contacted the prisoners last week to find out how they're doing as the rivalry intensifies heading into Saturday's game.
Class of 2013 Cadet Matthew Feiring is among the U.S. Military Academy contingent to be marched out midfield at FedEx Field in Landover, Md., and looks forward to reuniting with his classmates.
"Not being with the rest of USMA during this week is definitely weird," Feiring said. "You hear 'Go Navy Beat Army' and it doesn't sound right."
He got a taste of how Navy handles a rivalry week leading into the Midshipmen's contest against Air Force, and said it's all in good fun. The traditional pranks and shenanigans which accompany the Army-Navy rivalry are to be expected, but all Feiring would say is that it's "hush-hush." Class of 2013 Cadet Andrew Theising echoed the hush-hush status of the spirit missions and expects the inevitable retaliation throughout the week.
"My roommates are afraid our room is going to get wrecked. Navy definitely takes their rivalry weeks more seriously than we do," he said.
Midshipman Ashley Mannix said it will be fun representing Navy at West Point, and her colleagues have been making plans well in advance.
"Let's just say our pranks are pretty awesome. Get ready," said Mannix, a chemistry major, said.
Midshipman Andrew Musselwhite said it's a good practice to not only prepare for a spirit mission but also for the payback that comes with it.
"I'm all for the fun and games. I think it's a good time and should be done at all the academies," Musselwhite said. "However, I'm a much bigger fan of creative, non-destructive things."
Musselwhite said at the Naval Academy, the Army-Navy Week pranks aren't limited to just exchange cadets.
"Mostly it's a time for everyone to just let off steam by partaking in crazy shenanigans," he said. "Though ours are aimed at the upperclassmen within our own companies that we don't like, much more than they are at exchangers."
Both Feiring and Theising share a class, and said the day-to-day happenings in Annapolis are somewhat similar to West Point.
"Passing by people to and from class and around the yard can be uncomfortable, but on the whole most of the midshipmen, enlisted and officers, are very welcoming and interested about West Point and the Army," Feiring said.
Midshipman James Brown, a mechanical engineering major, said the departments at both academies are practically mirror-image.
"It's almost like West Point exists in a parallel universe to the Naval Academy in the sense that both of our schools have almost identical structures and modes of operating," Brown said. "We just each call it something different; instead of chit, it's a memorandum. Once you learn to speak Army, your time here gets a whole lot easier."
Before participating in the prisoner exchange, Mannix will have also joined the West Point Marathon team in the annual football run (see Page 6 story). When the semester ends, Mannix and the middies will return to Annapolis, having learned much more than West Point's version of Army-Navy Week.
"I've learned different leadership styles and how to adapt to a culture that uses different jargon and methods," Mannix said. "All of us are squad leaders, so at first it was challenging getting thrown into the mix and learning our way around, learning the different acronyms, figuring out all the paperwork. I definitely realized how adaptable I am, and appreciated how welcoming the cadets were in my activities."
All the cadets and middies interviewed agreed that while they gained an invaluable perspective from the academy exchange program, the experience proved they made the right choice --whether that be "Go Army" or "Go Navy."